Eugenie Falleni

6 Apr

“City of Shadows – Sydney Police Photographs 1912-1948” by Peter Doyle with Caleb Williams.

1920. Central cells. When hotel cleaner Harry Leon Crawford was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife three years earlier, he was revealed to be in fact Eugenie Falleni – a woman and mother who had been passing as a male since 1899. In 1914, as ‘Harry Crawford’, Falleni had married the the widow Annie Birkett who disappeared three years later, shortly after telling a relative that she had found out ‘something amazing about Harry’. Crawford told friends that his wife had run off with a plumber. In 1919 Birkett’s terrified young son, who had remained in Crawford’s custody, told an aunt that Crawford had made attempts on his life. The aunt contacted police. A charred body found in Lane Cove in 1917 was finally identified as Birkett’s and Crawford, who had by then remarried, was charged with her murder. Falleni’s astonished second wife, when finally convinced of Falleni’s gender, remarked, ‘I always wondered why he was so painfully shy…’

Photo taken on day of arrest, inscribed ‘Falleni Man/Woman’.

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